Regret does not equal Repentance

I recently ran across a painfully true cartoon, which suggested that Disney and porn are responsible for the most frustrated people. It shows a woman asking where her “prince charming” is, while a man asks where his “insatiable whore” is.

Most couples come into marriage with equally wrong, but very different expectations; expectations no real person is willing or even able to fulfill. If you’ve had anything more than a passing exposure to porn, your sexual expectations have been polluted – no matter how much you want to think otherwise. In a similar way, porn has also modified the sex acts you desire, and expecting her to do those things because she is your wife is asking her to pay the price for your sin and lack of dealing with your sin.

Last Sunday at church, the sermon contained the great nugget “Regret does not equal Repentance”. Regret does not mean you have stopped looking at porn. Being sorry you looked at porn (be it ten years ago or yesterday) does not mean you have dealt with the underlying issues.

Even if you’ve not looked in a long time, and even if you never look again, have you dealt with the way viewing porn changed your sexuality? Or do you expect your bride to change to accommodate those modifications to your sexuality? All too often, we can intellectually acknowledge the changes while secretly liking the changed desires and desperately wanting to find a way meet those desires. This is not repentance, no matter how much we regret our sin. It’s also not loving or right.

If anyone is going to suffer for your porn use, shouldn’t be you – the one who made the choice to sin? How can a man expect his wife to modify her sexuality to conform to his porn twisted standards? I’m not saying there should be no grace, nor am I saying a woman should never do something her husband would not desire had he not looked at porn – but those are her choices. It’s not something a repentant man would expect, and not something an unrepentant man has a right to ask for.

Bottom line: Your bride is not responsible for the desires you acquired from porn use. Thinking she is responsible for them, or to meet them, is a grave and destructive error.

For more on this topic, see my Porn Series.

10 Comments on “Regret does not equal Repentance

  1. There’s really one thing that bothers me about this post: “It’s not something a repentant man would expect, and not something an unrepentant man has a right to ask for.”

    I fear the consequences of men thinking that they cannot even ASK for something they desire. That’s dangerous, because if you’re not being open about your desires you are doing your mate a disservice.

    Granted, you need to admit that the desire may not be right, but there’s a significant difference between not ASKING and not EXPECTING. It may be something she can’t do due to discomfort or a conscience thing or an offense at your porn use, but my fear would be that in not even putting it out there as a desire a man will secretly harbor that desire in his heart, develop an offense that his wife won’t meet it, and seek gratification of that desire elsewhere.

    Bottom line, a man cannot expect his wife to do something he was influenced by porn to desire, but of the relationship is healthy, he owes it to her to be honest about his desires and acknowledge that while they may or may not be right, is there any chance he might seek associating it with her?

  2. Ack, nevermind!!! I just read it more closely: a REPENTANT man would not expect it, but an UNREPENTANT man shouldn’t ask. Makes it MUCH more clear now that I read it closely. Sorry for the misunderstanding. My fault.

    • @Rob – Not a problem, I was probably not as clear as I could have been. As to communication of desires, I agree, but he needs to be aware of the why and the limits he should put on himself.

  3. I have a real problem with this post and how it is structured. It would appear that the definition of repentance is grossly mis-understood:

    Last Sunday at church, the sermon contained the great nugget “Regret does not equal Repentance”. Regret does not mean you have stopped looking at porn. Being sorry you looked at porn (be it ten years ago or yesterday) does not mean you have dealt with the underlying issues.

    If someone looked at porn 10 years ago and was sorry for it and asked Jesus to forgive him for his behaviour, confessed it for accountabilty purposes and then never looked at it again HAS repented.
    This post makes it tough on folks who may have dealt with the issue of porn and are well over it….putting conditions on what they can ask from their spouse just because they looked at porn in the past.
    My point is this….once you have turned from this nasty sin and never return you have repented. If a Husband wants something from his wife and he is not imagining some other women than it is ok. What you imply here is that if a man got ideas from porn then he can’t ask his spouse, but if he read about it here on your site or some other Christian site then it’s ok???????

    • @John – I look at repentance much the way Jesus described sin in Mt 5:27-32 – it’s not (just) about our actions, but about our hearts and minds. Not looking at porn is good, but what is in the heart and mind? If a man still wants to look, is there not a problem? If his thoughts are full of pornographic fantasies, has he really repented?

      When I gave up porn at the age of 15, I did it because I wanted to be right with God. But I also still had the very strong urge to look at porn. I never looked – even when I found magazines while out on my bike I would fold them so I could not see the and throw the in the nearest trash can – but I really, really wanted to look. What’s more, my mind was still filled with the images and thoughts of porn. I was very much still looking in my mind’s eye!

      Over time that changed. The desire to look grew weaker, and the Lord dealt with me about my thoughts. It took a long time – when I married at 24 I was well into true repentance, but I still had some distance to go. Today I really don’t want to see porn. If I was told I could look and not have it held against me by God or my bride I would not be even remotely tempted. Today I understand what porn does, and that choosing to look at it is about as smart as asking to be repeatedly kicked in the crotch.

      See the next for the other part of your comment …

    • John said: “If a Husband wants something from his wife and he is not imagining some other women than it is ok.”

      I can’t agree with that. I think we have a responsibility to enter in to marriage sexually pure, and when we fail to do that we are not a clean slate. To expect my bride to do things that I desire because of sin is not acceptable in my mind. I am asking her to pay the price for my sin choice, rather than paying the price myself by removing from the table anything I got from porn to which she is at all resistance. I see this as a necessary part of repentance – turning away from the fruits of the sin.

      I hear men say “But I’d want that even if I’d never looked at porn.” Thing is, they have no way of knowing that. There are no shortage of well-done studies that prove porn changes a man’s sexual desires and priorities. Beyond that, even if he would have had the desire without porn, he would not have it as deeply ingrained. It would be a curiosity, not a deep desire – and that’s a huge difference.

      John also said: “What you imply here is that if a man got ideas from porn then he can’t ask his spouse, but if he read about it here on your site or some other Christian site then it’s ok???????”

      I am more or less saying that, but it’s not as hypocritical as it may look on the surface. As I said above, how a man comes about a desire has an effect on how strongly he desires it. If you eat curry and really enjoy it, your desire for curry is far stronger than if you read about it and thought, “That might taste good”. The man with the curry experience is going to be a lot more interested in eating curry than the man who thinks it might be good. The man with the experience is more likely to the next town, or make a detour on a trip in order to eat curry. What’s more, the man with the experience is going to feel much more “cheated” if he never eats it again than the other man will feel if he never eats it.

      Porn is very much like actually experiencing something. Not quite doing it, but very, very close – with the added problem of unrealistic expectations. Nothing else does the same thing. Even a very detailed description of a sex act is not going to give a man the depth of desire for something that he would get from porn.
      My goal here is to offer, “That might taste good” ideas. I want to give a couple new ideas they can pick and choose from – try some, don’t try others. Keep some of what you try, toss most of what you try. It’s a menu, not an experience. It’s something that a man can walk away from easily, where as the desires that come from porn are things from which some men are never able to walk away.

  4. I’d like to weigh in here as a wife. I believe that what The Generous Husband is saying is that if a husband has looked at porn and just regrets it and is NOT repentant, then he really hasn’t dealt with his sin. In our marriage ministry we come across many (Christian) husbands who’ve committed adultery, or looked at porn, or participated in online sex chats and are only sorry that they got caught; not sorry that they’ve broken faith with their wife and with God.

    These same men think that just because they say they’re sorry for what they did, their wife should just move on and forget about their sin. These are the same men that, only being sorry they got caught, will want their wives to do sex acts with them that they’ve exposed themselves to but which may make their wife feel uncomfortable; not necessarily because something she wouldn’t do but because his unrepentance is between them.

    This makes a huge difference.

    There may be something that a man reads on this site that somehow reminds him of something he saw in a porn film. Again, it’s not really the act but the state of the heart from which it springs that’s the issue here.

  5. Paul, the presence of temptation does NOT equal an unrepentant heart.
    I will ALWAYS want to look at a woman with a low cut blouse as she walks by. That will never leave me. It just won’t. I am drawn to that unless the Lord takes it away. He’d have to take away my libido to do it, but he could do that. That doesn’t mean I haven’t repented of lustfully looking at women here at work. I think I get your point about doing good but desiring evil. there is still a heart issue there, but that doesn’t mean one is unrepentant. I can repent, but I can’t declare myself changed and have the desires go away. They exist until they are gone. Some are never gone. It just seems like you are conflating two issues. I can repent and I can desire to NOT desire, and by diligence and washing my mind in the word I can build up my strength, but I can’t take away desire that exists by strength of will. How can I declare “I am now not tempted by that” I can declare “I will try” and “Lord I need your help. Please forgive me for falling”

    I can see asking God to take away the desire. To continue the life long process of sanctification, but we will not be completely sanctified until we reach glory. Positionally we are there but we still battle the flesh as Paul battled his flesh. ”

    21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
    Romans 7:21-25 (English Standard Version)

    • @landschooner – Sorry, I did not mean to imply that temptation = lack of repentance. However, what we do with the temptation in our minds is an indication of repentance, or lack thereof. Neither is our natural draw to less than fully dressed women a sign of not being repentant, but again we have choices.

      Let me give a personal example. For years, even after I was married, I would put myself in a place to see up a woman’s skirt or down her blouse. It’s not difficult, you see the opportunity and you position yourself to get a look. Clearly that was wrong, and an indication that I had not turned from my sin. As time went on I stopped doing things to increase the odds of seeing something, but if I saw that chance coming at me I did nothing to avoid it. That’s better, but still shows something wrong in my heart. Eventually I came to the point of using my awareness to AVOID seeing things. I’d move, or look away so as to not see. This, to me, is an indication of a real heart change.

      To me the real battle is in the mind. Two men see a naked woman as they walk past a window. One puts her out of his mind as fast as he can, while there other dwells on her, looks her over in his minds eye, even has sex with her in his imagination. Outwardly the men look the same, but in their hearts they are very, very different.

      Oh, and in my experience, the one who is sinning in his mind is going to make a bigger deal about how horrible it was that she exposed herself. “Thou doth protest too much” is often the case when men get righteous about a woman who shows too much.

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